#ClassicandContemporary book challenge: April

#ClassicandContemporary book challenge: Brave New World and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: Coming-of-age story

Publisher: Penguin Books

Year: July 2022


I’m sure every bookworm knows the feeling of seeing the same book over and over again everywhere, it’s like everyone on the planet is reading it, except for you, and you start wondering if it’s worth the hype. Should you also give it a go? Usually I’m having second thoughts on occasions like this, I always leave the most popular books for later, when people seem to have forgotten about them and the hype is over.

Sometimes I give in and this was one of those times. It was so worth it! The writing is amazing! I love how effortless it was to read about Sam and Sadie, like reading familiar stories about friends, about people you used to know. The author made it very easy to get into their world(s) and once you’re in, you don’t want the story to end. We follow the characters from their teenage years (with little glimpses into their childhoods) and well into their thirties and forties. When we parted, I actually felt sad for a while, I didn’t want the journey to end. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

“On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. These friends, intimates since childhood, borrow money, beg favours, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo. Overnight, the world is theirs. Not even twenty-five years old, Sam and Sadie are brilliant, successful, and rich, but these qualities won’t protect them from their own creative ambitions or the betrayals of their hearts.”

One thing I realised around halfway in was that the author didn’t necessarily rush to give us descriptions of how the characters looked from the very first chapters. You just dive into their stories, and forget about that aspect. I realised I hadn’t got a clue about their appearances until one third into the book already. And when she did describe them, it felt like a casual additional information, something that is not the most important thing about them. I really liked that, I felt like I didn’t need to know how they looked, because getting to know their personalities was enough, it was more important. In my (reading) experience this is not something very common, usually we know how people look from the very beginning.

I loved the fact that the author doesn’t try to sugar-coat the relationships between the characters, and mostly the one between Sam and Sadie. Neither of them is perfect and it shows many times in the book. This is what real life is, no one is staying friends forever with someone else without ever fighting or critiquing their ways, or even disliking them for a period of time. This is what made it feel real and natural, not forced in a way that we think “they are best friends, they need to stay this way forever”. We constantly fall out with people throughout our lives, there’s always disappointment and regret, but the important part is working on keeping the ones close to us by constant communication and support. The question is, do we want to keep those people around? Is it worth it? It’s something that Sam and Sadie ask themselves a lot, and it is not uncommon in real life. Re-considering our relationships with the people that surround us should be normalised and done on a regular basis.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a book about hope and failure, believing in yourself but finding yourself first (and then again, and again, and again), trusting the process and never giving up on your dreams. It’s about identity, disability, limitations, endless possibilities, our need to connect, the need to not be alone in the end. Supporting your friends’ dreams proves to be equally important as working on your own aspirations. It’s also about friendships and love, and how easily breakable both are, how fragile. It’s not the typical love story (and I’m glad it wasn’t), not the usual friends-to-lovers situation (or maybe it is?), but Sam and Sadie’s bond is so strong that the terms can often be used interchangeably. As a 90s kid, I sensed the nostalgia coming through the descriptions of life as it was “back then”, but I also noticed the limitations and contradictions that used to rule the world, the unfairness people had to face and the many prejudices co-existing with all the new possibilities the new century promised to bring.

I am not a big gamer myself, not at all, but I did enjoy escaping reality and joining the virtual world every now and then. Having said that, I absolutely loved reading about the technicalities of creating a video game, and mostly about the creative process that goes behind. The way a video game designer sees the world, what or who inspires them, and the things they have to have in mind when starting from scratch was truly fascinating. I wanted to go back to my childhood years of playing video games with my sister and forget about the world for a while.

I cared so much about the characters, they form one of the best literary duos, in my humble opinion (trios, if we add Marx, too, which I think we should). As readers, we knew what was going on “behind the scenes” at all times, and the author let us into the characters’ inner worlds by sharing their unspoken truths and most sacred thoughts and desires. Zevin didn’t spare us their worst fears and regrets, their longings and doubts either. I loved all of this because it is something that draws us closer to the protagonists, makes them human and real, and us—part of their lives… Just thinking about this book while writing the review makes me want to re-read it right now!

The plot is constructed in a great way, alternating chapters about Sam, about Sadie or about Marx, with some additional secondary characters appearing into the mix at a later point. There wasn’t a single weak character or someone I would dislike, every one of them was a complete and vital part of the story. This is really, really hard to achieve. Not to mention the growth and change all of them had to go through, they all evolved and became the best versions of themselves, as much as that’s possible. There’s the occasional chapter narrated in the second-person or one when we actually enter the video game and become part of the novel, and those bits are precious and bring even more dynamics into the narrative. Smart and beautiful storytelling that goes back and forth in time to give us the whole picture.

I will not stop talking about the dialogues, I loved every single word the character exchanged in this book! Whatever I say about how clever the writing is won’t do it justice, so please, please, please do yourself a favour and read this book, and thank me later!

Brave New World
(mini review)

Author: Aldous Huxley

Genre: Classics, Dystopian Fiction, Science Fiction

Publisher: Chatto & Windus

Year: 1932


I thought about this book a lot in the past few days. It is definitely not a light read and not a book I would read twice. It didn’t grab me, the main characters were not relatable (although their lack of emotional attachment was intentional), and I didn’t enjoy reading about them. I get the meaning behind the idea and the importance of the book in terms of setting the base for many other dystopian novels and science fiction, but I just didn’t feel it was engaging and compelling all the way through. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood for it.

Brave New World focuses on the use of technology to control society, consumerism, the absence of individuality, and the refusal to accept reality in exchange for living a life with no worries, no regrets, but no purpose or meaning either. The scariest part of the novel is the fact that our society is perfectly able to be self-destructive and disrespectful, and brainwashing is not something unfamiliar nowadays, so all the unthinkable things happening in the book might become true one day…

The themes are thought-provoking and terrifying, and apart from a few meaningful conversations, I thought the narrative was rather flat and dull. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the idea, I thought it was very original and clever, so it’s important to be considered by everyone. I’m sure it was a significant literary achievement for its time, I just don’t think this was the best way to present it but hey, what do I know, I am no writer myself.

Finishing off with a few quotes from the book:

But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.

If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.

One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.

‘I’d rather be myself,’ he said. ‘Myself and nasty. Not somebody else, however jolly.’

In case you need me… #owlbeereading!

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